Travel industry demands faster lifting of holiday ban

As leaks from government indicate that holidays may remain illegal until summer, travel industry leaders have written to the prime minister demanding faster lifting of restrictions.

Leisure travel within and beyond the UK has been banned since the third lockdown began in early January.

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s announcement to parliament on easing some restrictions, leaks suggest that UK holidays may not be possible until June with foreign travel opening up in August – once all adults have been offered vaccines.

In an open letter to Boris Johnson, Abta, the travel association, says: “The government should recognise that we cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again.

“What we need are some principles for restarting travel – recognising that the return to normal life will never be entirely risk-free.”

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The association says that around 160,000 jobs have been lost and many businesses have closed their doors for good. 

Business for holiday firms fell by 86 per cent between February and December 2020, which aviation slumped by 90 per cent.

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John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, wrote in Business Travel News: “In January just gone 677,356 people passed through the airport.  Last year it was 6.1 million.

“This staggering collapse in the airport’s traffic is indicative of stunted economic growth and a levelling down of all the communities that rely on the movement of goods and people.”

“With the introduction of hotel-quarantine last Monday, the UK’s borders have effectively been shut in all but name. Only 12 months ago this new reality would have been scarcely imaginable.

“This third lockdown has been especially difficult for many because of the inability to plan for the future, with reunions, trips abroad and business meetings feeling as though they’ve been placed on hold indefinitely.”

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) and and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation have written a joint open letter to Boris Johnson, saying: “It is beyond doubt that our sector has reached breaking point. Our world-class aviation, travel and tourism sectors cannot survive any longer without a clear way out of this crisis.

“This must include the publication of an Aviation, Travel and Tourism Recovery Plan, which although promised by ministers last year is yet to materialise.”

A spokesman for Tui, Britain’s biggest holiday company, said: “We know how important summer holidays are for our customers and believe that with a risk-based approach with can work with government to safely unlock travel this summer.

“We would like to reassure customers that we are constantly reviewing our flexibility policy and have been cancelling holidays on a rolling basis, in line with confirmed government advice.”

The prime minister said in a statement: “Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.

No 10 said the road map for leaving lockdown will seek to balance health, economic and social factors with the very latest epidemiological data and advice.

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